If you’re curious about this topic, chances are you’re either looking to adopt a new pet cat or you’re worried about the neediness of one that’s already ruling your household. No matter which group you fall into, my overall message to you is at its core the same:
Most cats do need attention; you cannot simply feed them, change their water, and go on with your day. If you’re going to have an indoor cat, he or she is likely going to need substantially more attention than an outdoor cat might. When all is said and done, however, a cat’s need for attention will never be so demanding that it’s impossible to fulfill, even if you’re the only person that will be taking care of and/or interacting with your cat. Finally, in most situations where you ultimately feel you really cannot dedicate enough attention to a pet cat (say you work incredibly long hours), instead of advising you against getting a pet cat or advising you to re-home an attention-craving one you already have, I would instead advise you to adopt a second cat to keep the first cat company. A feline companion is ultimately the only thing a cat should really need to fulfill a craving for attention and socialization.
Obviously, this is just my personal opinion, and you can feel free to correct me in the comments down below if you’re think I’m off base in any way shape or form. I’ll be spending the remainder of this article breaking down why I think this way about cats and their need for attention; so if you’re curious about the reasoning behind my opinion, keep reading.
How Much Attention Do Cats Really Need?
Because of their sometimes stand-offish ways, cats seem to have developed a reputation that suggests they don’t need much attention at all. I don’t think this is a perfectly accurate picture.
No matter which way you dice it: cats are not “set it and forget it” types of pets like reptiles or fish. From my experience, they also need plenty more attention than small mammals like rabbits, hamsters, or mice. You cannot simply fill a food bowl, offer clean water, and clean after a cat to keep a feline as happy and healthy as can be. They need stimulation – exercise and daily use of their prey drive – but they also need attention and socialization, which for the well being of any cat cannot be ignored.
Of course, if you compare cats to their highly attention-seeking rival most-popular-pet, dogs, they really don’t seem to need much attention at all. And yes, there are times cats cannot even get along with one another – but that doesn’t automatically place them on the lower end of the need-for-attention spectrum when it comes to pets in general.
Based on my experience: some cats don’t need much attention at all; many cats appreciate attention, others crave it, and some – believe it or not – are downright attention whores.
How much attention any individual cat needs comes down to the particular personality of the cat you’ve got on your hands. While you can sometimes guess the kind of personality a cat will have when you factor in breed, there’s still plenty of variance from one cat to the next.
If you’ve had plenty of experience with cats, but have never felt they really needed all that much attention, my guess is you’ve probably had much more firsthand experience with outdoor cats, which brings me to the next section…
Do Indoor Cats Need More Attention?
I definitely think indoor cats, on the whole, need plenty more attention than outdoor cats.
If you’ve only had outdoor cats before and think my assertion that cats can’t simply be fed, have their water changed, then ignored, it’s probably because your cat is getting attention and socialization elsewhere – outside with other cats or even with other humans around your neighbourhood. Again, I’m not saying every cat needs a heck of a lot of attention, but attention cats do need, and if they’re meeting that quota with a few felines or humans they run into outside, it makes sense that they’d then be less needy when they came home.
With an indoor cat – the only options for interaction that cat has is with whomever happens to be inside. Which can be completely fine, even if you’re the only person who happens to live there – if you’re home for long enough. If you’re not, times can get tough – and quite lonely – for a kitty. And so, like I said in the intro, I’d think your best option is probably to adopt a second cat if you’re away for long hours and find your cat needs a little more attention than you’re able to offer.
Obviously, there will always be exceptions (I’ve met probably the most needy outdoor cat in the world – Sammy, and I know quite a few indoor cats who’d rather have little to no interference from humans or other felines most days – ehhem, Weiss). That being said, I do feel if you’ve got an indoor cat you should be expecting a little more of a burden in the attention-giving department.
How Can I Tell If My Cat Wants More Attention?
Cats are tricky things to interpret. Sometimes a cat behaviour means one thing, other times the very same behaviour will mean quite another. Take purring for instance. A purring cat is a happy cat – most of the time. But there are a slew of other reasons why a cat may purr, and some of these reasons are quite the opposite of happy – anxious and injured, for instance.
The best way to determine whether your cat wants more attention or wants something else (like stimulation, more exercise, or even to constantly be fed?) – follow the steps outlined in this guide. Once you do you should know almost for certain if your cat is craving more attention than you can offer. If he or she is definitely showing a need for more attention, your best option is to adopt a second, similarly tempered attention-loving feline into your home so the two can keep each other company in your absence.
In Your Experience – How Much Attention Do Cats Need?
Now it’s time to take to the comments section with your experiences – and please don’t hesitate here because I’m sure a lot of you have much more experience with cats and their need for attention than I do.
In your opinion – how much attention do cats generally need? Do you think they need more or less the same amount of attention people usually think? If not, do you feel people typically under- or over-estimate how much attention cats need?
Do you find there’s a difference in indoor cats vs outdoor cats in terms of how much attention they need? Have you met any exceptions to what you feel is the typical rule?
Have you ever had a cat who wanted way more attention than you could offer? How did you resolve the problem? If you’ve never had this problem yourself but could recommend a solution you think would work, please let me know in the comments down below!